Chapter 1 : Colorblind
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That stupid baby is crying again. This is the third time tonight and the clock hasn't even struck midnight yet. It's bad enough trying to sleep in this lumpy, creaky bed, but I have to listen to that damn kid cry, too? I can't wait to get back to Romania. At least dragons sleep when it's dark.
I wrap my pillow as tightly as I can around my head, desperately trying to block the one-month-old's unrelenting wails from reaching my ears. Though this drowns them out a bit, the effort is next to useless. The cries of discomfort, hunger, or whatever they're about this time continue to pierce my eardrums and threaten to trigger a migraine. And if that's not enough, Percy's snoring like a bear on the other side of the room we've been sharing for the past couple of nights. How he can sleep through such noise is beyond me.
Acknowledging that I'm most likely going to be awake for a while, I slither out of bed and trudge across the room while running my fingers through my straggly hair. The screams grow louder as I head down the stairs, and I hear a Fleur whisper comfortingly to the crying infant in a mixture of English and French. They're in the sitting room, and I thankfully go unnoticed as I pass by. I enter the kitchen with a hot cup of chamomile tea on my mind and immediately busy myself with the kettle and teacup as quietly as possible; the last thing I want is to get a request for help with the baby. I'm terrible with babies. The few times I've held one, I've just stood there while awkwardly patting it on the back. I'm just not one of those people who has a talent for making crying babies feel better. I wish I did, but no one can be good at everything, I guess.
Teacup in hand, I slowly tiptoe back across the kitchen, hoping to repeat my initial luck of not being seen. I really just want to get back to bed. It doesn't happen.
“Charlie? Ees zat you?”
I turn to see Fleur standing in the middle of the sitting room with the baby cradled in her arms as she rocks him back and forth.
“Would you mind taking 'im for a few minutes? I really need to use ze loo.”
Fleur, who is usually so pristine and proper, looks quite haggard and exhausted. Has she been down here all night?
“Yeah... yeah, alright,” I mumble reluctantly. Attempting to comfort an infant is the last thing in the world I feel like doing, but what can I say? She's my sister-in-law, and it would only be for a little while. I place my teacup down on an end table and gesture for her to hand the baby to me.
“Oh, thank you, Charlie. You are ze best,” she says with a sigh of relief, placing the little boy in my arms. “I'll be right back.”
He continues to cry as Fleur leaves, so I gently bounce him as I pace around the room, not really knowing what else to do. As I said before, I'm really not good at this sort of thing. I avoid looking at him; his bright red hair is too much of a reminder.
“There, there,” I whisper. “It's alright, little guy. It's alright.”
Apparently it's not. He keeps crying. I'm sure he senses the ever-present tension that's been in the house these past few days. It's like the plague. I almost feel bad for the kid. Almost.
“Please stop crying,” I plead quietly. “Please?”
He replies with a piercing scream. It's a miracle the windows haven't shattered into a million pieces by now. Merlin, how does everyone sleep through this?
Oh, who am I kidding? No one in this house is actually sleeping – well, except for Percy, anyway. They're probably all just pretending to sleep so they don't have to talk to each other, because really, what is there to say? Sorry for your loss? We're all suffering the same bloody loss. While the rest of the country celebrates, we're all crammed in this damn house moping around. It's an insult to the memories of those who can't be here. Maybe that's why this kid won't shut the hell up. Maybe he knows it's wrong.
Regardless, he's driving me bonkers.
“Shut up,” I mutter. “Damn it, I know you're sad, but shut up! Merlin, you're just like your-”
I spin around to see Bill standing in the doorway. He looks even worse than Fleur; his hair is a mess and his scars look more fierce than usual. I wonder how close we are to the full moon.
“You shouldn't talk to him like that,” Bill mutters. His voice is sleepy, but stern nonetheless.
“What difference does it make? He's a baby. He doesn't know what the hell I'm saying.”
“Babies can sense things, in case you haven't noticed,” Bill says. “Why else would he be crying like this? He knows something's wrong. He misses-”
“Don't say it.”
“Don't say it,” I repeat, glaring at my brother. I can't believe his nerve. “It's bad enough that he's here.”
“It's not his fault, Charlie. You can't be mad at him for any of this.”
“Yeah? Try me.”
The baby screams again, and I can't take it anymore. I reluctantly look down, and to my dismay his red hair appears to be even more vibrant than before. I swear the kid's mocking me. Frustrated, I hand him off to Bill.
“Take him if you love him so damn much,” I snap. “I can't stand the sight of him and I'm sick of listening to his whining.”
I don't even wait for a response from Bill before I briskly walk out the front door and into the garden, making sure to slam the door behind me. I storm through the overgrown plants before flopping down on the wobbly bench beside the rosebush, letting out an angry grunt as I do so. The starry sky is beautiful tonight. What a kick to the groin. Between this and the damn kid's hair, there's a good chance I'll end up in the St. Mungo's nutter ward by sunrise. If I go back in there and his hair's pink, it'll be a certainty.
Teddy just had to inherit that metamorphic gene, didn't he? Why couldn't he have gotten the wolf gene instead? Maybe that would have made him more tolerable to be around. I can't stand that he's so much like her, because instead of seeing an adorable, helpless baby like everyone else sees, all I see when I look at him is his mother.
And I hate it. I hate him. I never thought it'd be so easy to hate an innocent baby, but his hair, especially when it's red like that, is too much. Actually, it's not just when it's red. Any color his hair becomes, regardless of how bright, dull, common, or unusual it may be, is going to bring back a memory of the only girl I ever loved.
I can still vividly remember the first time I saw her hair color change. As I waited for my name to be called at the sorting ceremony, I didn't really pay much attention to what was going on. It wasn't exciting for me like it was for some of my other classmates because I was already positive I'd end up in Gryffindor; putting on the Sorting Hat was nothing more than a formality for a Weasley. Tonks looked like just a regular student as she climbed up on the platform. Then she was declared a Hufflepuff. All of a sudden, her mousy-brown hair evolved into a bright canary yellow. I was stunned. I wondered how she did it, seeing as she hadn't learned any magic yet. It was then when I knew I wanted to be her friend, because she, I could tell, was someone special.
I had an opportunity to talk to her a few weeks later. As we were leaving Charms class, I saw her drop her book while she skipped down the corridor. She was oblivious to it, which I soon learned was a common state of mind for her. She was a little farther ahead of me, so I jogged after her and called her name.
She spun on her heel, eyes narrowed at me as her hair morphed from a happy pink to an angry crimson that matched the tint on her cheeks.
“What did you call me?” she sneered.
“Nymphadora. That's your name, isn't it?” I asked, puzzled. I was so sure that was it; it was a hard name to forget. I held out her book. “You dropped this in-”
But before I could finished my sentence, she stomped toward me, grabbed my shoulders, and pushed me into the wall.
“Don't. Call. Me. Nymphadora.” She didn't shout, but there was a tone of warning to her voice that let me know I had better not call her that again if I wanted to avoid being hexed. She then proceeded to grab her Charms book from my hand while her hair evolved back to its previous shade of bubblegum pink. “It's Tonks. Thanks, by the way.”
I'd never encountered someone with that much of a personality, and so much confidence, too.
“No problem,” I replied.
She raised an eyebrow at me. “No problem? That's it?”
“Well, yeah. What else do you want me to say?”
“Nothing. I just tend to put people off. Scare them, even. My mum says it's because I'm too chaotic.”
I shrugged. “I have six siblings. Chaos doesn't scare me.”
“It's Charlie, right?” When I nodded, she just smiled. “I like you, Charlie. C'mon, let's go get lunch.”
And that was all it took. She was bubbly, eccentric, and fun while I was the quiet, reclusive introvert. We were complete opposites, but that seemed to work for us. I didn't mind when she wanted to ramble about every single nonsensical musing that she thought of, while she didn't mind that I preferred to keep quiet. That just gave her an excuse to talk more.
She usually favored keeping her hair pink, but she changed it every once in a while. Sometimes, she couldn't control it. If she was extremely angry, it would turn a fierce red like it did the day I called her Nymphadora. If she was excited, it was either turquoise or tangerine. When she was embarrassed, it was fuchsia, but I only saw that once. Tonks rarely got embarrassed; she took everything in stride.
There were times she changed it on purpose. On Valentine's Day, she'd change it to royal blue because she didn't want to match the silly pink decorations all over the castle. When she wanted to blend in some winter mornings because she thought it'd be funny to nail me in the face with a snowball, she favored white or evergreen. Dark shades of purple were reserved for thunderstorms, but she never told me why. As for her natural mousy-brown? That only occurred when she was completely relaxed and happy without a care in the world.
And then there was scarlet.
It was weird the first time I saw her with scarlet hair when she wasn't angry. At the time, I thought she actually was angry. I was circling the Quidditch pitch in search of the snitch when I caught sight of her in the stands; she certainly stood out in the sea of yellow with her bright red locks. I figured she was pissed off because Hufflepuff was over a hundred points behind. I found her after Gryffindor won, shocked to see that she was actually grinning.
“You aren't angry?” I asked, bewildered.
“Are you kidding?” she laughed, throwing her arms around me. “Charlie, you were fantastic!”
“But... Hufflepuff lost. Isn't that why your hair's red?”
“Don't be silly,” she said as she pulled away, beaming. “I turned it red myself.”
“Why? Your colors are black and yellow.”
“You're my friend. That tramples house loyalty any day.”
That was the moment when red became my favorite color.
That was the moment I fell in love with her.
Some people think sixteen's too young to fall in love, but I did. How could I not? Tonks was beyond extraordinary. She was so fun-loving and full of life. She forced me to come out of my shell every once in a while. Nobody made me laugh as much as she did – not even Fred and George. No one but her made me want to ignore my prefect instincts by sneaking out in the middle of the night to swim in the Black Lake or see how close we could get to the Whomping Willow without losing a limb. She was the only person in the world who could make me want to laugh, cry, sing, dance, and scream all at once.
She made every color under the sun special. Rainbows had nothing on her. Every color her hair turned suited her. I had figured some shade would clash with her eventually, but it never happened, because every single one meant something. Every color served a purpose because whenever her hair changed, it was a reflection of what was in her heart, mind, and soul. And scarlet was the prettiest of them all, because after the day of the Quidditch match, she used red as one of her happy colors. It never again indicated she was angry; that job was passed along to periwinkle.
To see Teddy with red hair as he threw a tantrum broke my heart. I know he can't control it yet, but I still associate scarlet with happiness, friendship, and love; I didn't know whether to smile at the memories his hair brought or cry because the little boy who bears Tonks' hair was missing her, just like I was. Just like I am.
I turn my head as I hear the front door to the house open and close. I'm not surprised to see Bill walking toward me, hands shoved deep into his pockets and his face unreadable. He may be disappointed about the way I acted in there, but somehow, I know he understands.
“Hey,” he mumbles as he sits beside me.
“Hey. How's Teddy?”
“Still a bit fussy, but he's getting better, I think. Fleur's with him now.”
We don't say anything for a few minutes, which I appreciate. Bill, like me, has never been a man of many words. I don't cry in front of him, even though he's probably the only person in the world I'd allow myself to vulnerable in front of right now. I've wanted to cry for days, but I couldn't do that in front of the rest of the family. It's strange that I don't just let go now that I have the opportunity. I think it's because, somewhere in the back of my mind, I know Tonks wouldn't want me to. If she were here, I'm sure she'd see this as a time to celebrate. I wonder what hair color she'd choose for the occasion.
“Did you ever tell her?” Bill asks after a long while, though his gaze remains on the stars.
“No,” I whisper. Aside from myself, Bill's the only one who knows how I felt, still feel, about Tonks. “I almost did once. Fifth year.”
“Why didn't you?”
I shrug. “It wasn't the right time. It never was.” The statement is partially true. It actually seemed like the right moment until she decided to tell me her thoughts on relationships. She told me how silly they were to her, how they seemed irrational, and that she never planned to tie herself down in such a way. Her free spirit was too free, I suppose.
“I never really got the chance to ask you how you're doing,” Bill says. “With everything going on-” Bill pauses for a moment, and I can only assume he's thinking about Fred. “How are you doing, Charlie?”
“I'm alright,” I say. Again, it's partially true. “I'm just trying not to think about it. But it's hard when he's right there...”
“I know,” Bill sympathizes.
“Why is he even here, anyway?”
“Mum and Fleur offered to take him for the night. With the funeral tomorrow... well, they both thought Andromeda might need a night to herself. I can't say I blame her. I'm sure Teddy reminds her just as much of Tonks as he does to you.”
“Makes sense, I suppose. It's just... Merlin, he looks so much like her. Those eyes, that ever-changing hair... it's uncanny.”
“He does. Sort of acts like her too, doesn't he? He certainly makes sure his voice is heard.”
For the first time since the battle, I smile. Tonks would be proud of her vocal little boy.
“But you know, Charlie, none of this is his fault,” Bill continues, repeating his words from earlier. “You know it isn't.”
“I know,” I agree, looking down at my feet. Tonks would have flung herself into battle regardless of whether she had a little boy to protect or not; it was just her nature. “I just don't know if I'll ever be able to look at him without thinking of her.”
“There's nothing wrong with that. Tonks was an important part of your life. She was your best friend.” He stifles a yawn. “I better get back inside. We have an early day tomorrow. You coming?”
I shake my head. “Nah, you go ahead. I'll be in soon.” Bill nods and begins to walk back toward the house, but I stop him suddenly. “Bill?”
He spins on his heel. “Yeah?
“Do you think I'll ever get over her?”
He shakes his head. “No. We're not meant to simply get over losses like these. The most we can do is cope.”
“Well, do you think that I'll ever be able to?”
“You will in time. We all will.”
“It's just... Bill, I see her everywhere. Every color I see is her, in some way. There aren't any exceptions. Memories of her are everywhere.”
“I never said it was going to be easy. It'll take some time, but it'll happen, I promise.”
I sigh. “I hope you're right.”
“Just don't go thinking having memories of her are a bad thing. One day, Teddy's going to want to know about her.”
I snort. “That's what his grandmother is for, no?”
“Sure, she knew what Tonks was like growing up, but who's going to tell Teddy about all of those crazy things she did while at Hogwarts?”
“You, Percy, George... you all knew her.”
“True, but none of us knew her the way you did.”
With a final nod, Bill walks back to the house, and I sit there in the garden for quite a while. For the first time since the battle, I'm feeling sorry not for myself, but for the little boy inside the house who's been orphaned by this terrible war. His parents were such amazing people and it's completely unfair that he'll never get to know them. Once Tonks married Remus, I tried like hell to hate him, but it was impossible. He was one of the kindest, humblest wizards I've ever met. I was happy that Tonks found such a wonderful person, even if that person wasn't me. And Tonks... well, I could go on for days about how spectacular she was. The fact that Teddy will never know them is heartbreaking and wrong.
As sleepiness finally begins to settle in, I reluctantly heave myself off the bench and saunter back to the house. Teddy should be asleep by now.
He's not. As I enter the sitting room, I hear him fussing as Fleur gently rocks him back and forth. He's not screaming at the top of his lungs anymore, at least. His hair has mellowed out to a rosy shade that's somewhere in between red and pink.
“Fleur, you really need to get some sleep,” I say.
“Oh, I will soon,” she says with a tired smile. “Your mum ees coming down in a few minutes to take over for me.”
“Would it be alright, if... if I took him?”
Fleur looks taken aback. “Are you sure? He ees still a bit cranky.”
I nod with a a reassuring grin. “Yeah, I'm sure. Tell my mum I've got it covered.”
“Well, alright. Thank you, Charlie. Eef he starts to cry again, there ees a bottle ready for 'im in ze kitchen. Just cast a warming charm on it.”
As Fleur disappears up the stairs, I slowly sit down in an armchair with Teddy nestled in my arms.
“Hey, little guy,” I say, “I'm so sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to scold you. I, like you, have had a rather sad couple of days. I miss your mummy, too.”
Teddy wiggles around a little, whimpering a bit here and there, but he doesn't cry.
“You see, your mummy was my best friend. She made everything fun. She was charming, kind, and full of life, never afraid to say exactly what was on her mind. Sometimes her hair did the talking for her. Her hair changed colors, too, just like yours does.”
Teddy stops whimpering and instead makes little sniffling noises. Even I have to admit it's rather cute. I'm actually beginning to like this kid.
“You remind me so much of her, Teddy. Every color in the world reminds me of her. Pink, blue, green, orange... it doesn't matter. They're all your mum, every single one. It makes me sad, but so happy at the same time because I know she'll always be with me. And she'll always be with you, too, and not just because of your hair. Everyone who knew her has a story or two to share, and as you grow up, we'll all tell you about her.”
Teddy is silent as his eyes slowly begin to droop. Am I actually helping him relax?
“Look, I know I'm not your father,” I say. “Heck, I'm not even your godfather, but I can be your friend. Would you like that, sweetheart? I think your mum would. I think she'd want us to be friends. If you're anything like she was, you and I will get along great. And I want to tell you stories about her, because you should know about your mum. You deserve to know how amazing she was, however chaotic. You'll love knowing what she was like.”
His little blue eyes finally drift to a close and his breathing evens out. He's asleep. And Merlin, he's adorable. These past few days, it's been so hard for me to see that, but I'm so glad I'm able to. I still see Tonks when I look at him, and that does hurt, but I think she'd want me to get to know her son. She'd want me to be comfortable around him. I promise to do my best to do that, because I want to be a part of her child's life, even if it's just as a friend.
As Teddy falls into a deeper sleep while cuddled up beside me, his magenta hair turns into a magnificent shade of chartreuse. Perhaps this will be his relaxed color.
“Chartreuse,” I say to his sleeping form with a smile. “Let me tell you about a time your mother's hair way chartreuse.”
And so the stories begin.
Author's Note: This was written for GinveraMollyPotter's "Evoke Emotion Challenge." Thanks for reading! :)